Saturday, May 27, 2017

Maher Zain Ramadan

The name 'Ramadan'

The name 'Ramadan' is derived from an Arabic word associated with burning.  In the process of intense and devoted prayer and fasting, the devotee burns away the energies of worldly concerns and then trusts God to reconstruct energies of reverence for Him and obedience to His will.  Fearing God is to acknowledge His awesome power and to realize the importance of living in complete submission to Him.  Ramadan gives the devotee the opportunity to burn vain energies and to change their composition into self-discipline and divine awareness so that the devotee may attain spiritual success.

-Linda Barto in Ramadan Rhapsody

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Why we Fast - by Amanda Quraishi

– Fasting Is Supposed to Suck; That’s Why We Do It

By Amanda Quraishi
I performed my first Ramadan fast when I was 25 years old. I’d embraced Islam, spoke the words of the Shahada and learned my prayers with enthusiasm; but as the holy month drew closer on the calendar, I prepared for it with trepidation. Fasting for 30 days, even with the allowances of eating and drinking during the nighttime hours, was a daunting endeavor.
That first year I lasted for about a week and then gave up the fast in total dismay. It seemed impossible. I live in a country where the majority of people around me are not fasting.  Our work schedules don’t change just because it’s Ramadan. We’re required to stay as sharp and focused as our not-Muslim co-workers during the day. We also do our own domestic chores. Cooking, cleaning and laundry don’t go away just because it’s Ramadan. The discomfort and exhaustion I experienced during those first fasts was completely opposite from the spiritual high I was hoping to achieve during this holiest of months.
Yet, I would look around at other Muslims and see that they were successfully fasting while maintaining a positive attitude.  Rather than inspiring me, seeing other Muslims with a “Ramadan Glow” made me mad. I resented people who seemed to truly be enjoying the experience while I struggled and failed again and again to keep the daily fasts because of hunger, thirst, headaches and exhaustion. Surely they must be faking it, I thought.
Aside from the logistical issues of Ramadan in the U.S., fasting is, in every sense, a spiritual discipline that requires all the things I struggle with: patience, consistency, focus and self-control. Still, in spite of the challenges Ramadan presents, each year for the past 14 years I have made preparations, set my intentions and began the fast, praying that it be pleasing to Allah (SWT).
About three years ago, however, I had a Ramadan Breakthrough. It was a simple revelation that suddenly brought everything into perspective.  You see, fasting sucks.  And it sucks on purpose. It’s supposed to be a challenge. That’s why we do it! I realized that the joy that many of my Muslim friends were experiencing from fasting was like that of a marathon runner who, despite the physical discomfort she experiences, stays bolstered with every mile she completes on the course. As she nears the finish line and her dedication and perseverance pays off it makes the aches and pains, blisters and exhaustion all seem worth it.
If you look at it objectively, it seems almost insane that a person would get up out of bed on a Saturday morning and attempt to run 26 miles; continuing to run even when she is exhausted, near dehydration and in pain. Not-Muslim friends and family often look at our Ramadan fast the same way. Why would you subject yourself to that kind of torture? But any runner will tell you that there is no feeling like crossing the finish line, and any faster will tell you there’s nothing more satisfying than that first sip of water and a date after a long day of abstinence.
These disciplines –physical, mental and spiritual — that we humans engage in cause us to transcend our comfort and, sometimes, even logic. We do these things precisely because they force us out of our comfort zones and challenge us in ways that we inherently understand are important; especially in a culture like that of the U.S., where we are constantly seeking new ways to be comfortable. Every new product or service promises to make our lives easier, more fun and help us feel better.
When we intentionally make our lives harder and allow ourselves to experience discomfort, we gain valuable perspectives and allow our mettle to be tested. The reward is the confirmation that we have the ability to overcome our own weaknesses, which is even more satisfying in the case of Ramadan when we’re doing it for the glory of the One God.
These days, I look forward to Ramadan. I’ve also become a runner. I don’t think these two things have happened coincidentally. They are both a sign that I’ve matured and have learned to appreciate the purpose of self-discipline in different areas of my life.
When I first started running, a friend of mine offered me a great piece of advice. He said, “It’s your race, your pace. Running is a competition against yourself. Pay attention to your unique needs, understand what your body requires to meet your goal, and forget about anyone else.”
Every year, millions of marathon runners sign up to run in races that they know they won’t ‘win.’  Sure, there are a handful of elite runners who are there to try to be first across the finish line, but most marathon runners aren’t competing against anyone but themselves and their last race time. The goal is to simply finish the course and do better than you’ve done before.
In the same way, fasting is not a competition between you and anyone else. It’s a struggle against your own nafs, a challenge that you must meet on your own. Sure, you can ask other Muslims for advice on fasting, but find the way that works best for you. Maybe you need to do unconventional things to be able to manage your schedule or juggle your responsibilities during Ramadan. As long as you are sticking to the basic requirements of the fast, that’s ok. If you fail, just get up the next day and start again.
Islam is not a destination. It’s a path — a ‘straight path’ that requires a lifetime of perseverance and dedication. Ramadan is a blessed part of that journey, and the only way you can ever really “lose” at it is to just stop trying.
Amanda Quraishi is a writer, interfaith activist and technology professional living in Austin, Texas.  She currently works full time for Mobile Loaves & Fishes, a non-profit organization that addresses the issue of homelessness in the U.S.  She also leads a populist-based interfaith initiative at, and blogs about the American Muslim experience at

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Evidence-based Health benefits of Fasting

10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Man Eating a Tiny Portion of FoodIntermittent fasting is an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting.
Numerous studies show that it can have powerful benefits for your body and brain.
Here are 10 evidence-based health benefits of intermittent fasting.

1. Intermittent Fasting Changes The Function of Cells, Genes and Hormones

When you don’t eat for a while, several things happen in your body.
For example, your body initiates important cellular repair processes and changes hormone levels to make stored body fat more accessible.
Here are some of the changes that occur in your body during fasting:
  • Insulin levels: Blood levels of insulin drop significantly, which facilitates fat burning (1).
  • Human growth hormone: The blood levels of growth hormone may increase as much as 5-fold (23). Higher levels of this hormone facilitate fat burning and muscle gain, and have numerous other benefits (45).
  • Cellular repair: The body induces important cellular repair processes, such as removing waste material from cells (6).
  • Gene expression: There are beneficial changes in several genes and molecules related to longevity and protection against disease (78).
Many of the benefits of intermittent fasting are related to these changes in hormones, gene expression and function of cells.
Bottom Line: When you fast, insulin levels drop and human growth hormone increases. Your cells also initiate important cellular repair processes and change which genes they express.

2. Intermittent Fasting Can Help You Lose Weight and Belly Fat

Many of those who try intermittent fasting are doing it in order to lose weight (9).
Generally speaking, intermittent fasting will make you eat fewer meals.
Unless if you compensate by eating much more during the other meals, you will end up taking in fewer calories.
Man Not Allowed to Eat Bell Pepper
Additionally, intermittent fasting enhances hormone function to facilitate weight loss.
Lower insulin levels, higher growth hormone levels and increased amounts of norepinephrine (noradrenaline) all increase the breakdown of body fat and facilitate its use for energy.
For this reason, short-term fasting actually increases your metabolic rate by 3.6-14%, helping you burn even more calories (1011).
In other words, intermittent fasting works on both sides of the calorie equation. It boosts your metabolic rate (increases calories out) and reduces the amount of food you eat (reduces calories in).
According to a 2014 review of the scientific literature, intermittent fasting can cause weight loss of 3-8% over 3-24 weeks (12). This is a huge amount.
The people also lost 4-7% of their waist circumference, which indicates that they lost lots of belly fat, the harmful fat in the abdominal cavity that causes disease.
One review study also showed that intermittent fasting caused less muscle loss than continuous calorie restriction (13).
All things considered, intermittent fasting can be an incredibly powerful weight loss tool. More details here: How Intermittent Fasting Can Help You Lose Weight.
Bottom Line: Intermittent fasting helps you eat fewer calories, while boosting metabolism slightly. It is a very effective tool to lose weight and belly fat.

3. Intermittent Fasting Can Reduce Insulin Resistance, Lowering Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Blood Sugar Meter
Type 2 diabetes has become incredibly common in recent decades.
Its main feature is high blood sugar levels in the context of insulin resistance.
Anything that reduces insulin resistance should help lower blood sugar levels and protect against type 2 diabetes.
Interestingly, intermittent fasting has been shown to have major benefits for insulin resistance and lead to an impressive reduction in blood sugar levels (12).
In human studies on intermittent fasting, fasting blood sugar has been reduced by 3-6%, while fasting insulin has been reduced by 20-31% (12).
One study in diabetic rats also showed that intermittent fasting protected against kidney damage, one of the most severe complications of diabetes (13).
What this implies, is that intermittent fasting may be highly protective for people who are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
However, there may be some differences between genders. One study in womenshowed that blood sugar control actually worsened after a 22-day long intermittent fasting protocol (14).
Bottom Line: Intermittent fasting can reduce insulin resistance and lower blood sugar levels, at least in men.

4. Intermittent Fasting Can Reduce Oxidative Stress and Inflammation in The Body

Oxidative stress is one of the steps towards aging and many chronic diseases (14).
It involves unstable molecules called free radicals, which react with other important molecules (like protein and DNA) and damage them (15).
Several studies show that intermittent fasting may enhance the body’s resistance to oxidative stress (1617).
Additionally, studies show that intermittent fasting can help fight inflammation, another key driver of all sorts of common diseases (171819).
Bottom Line: Studies show that intermittent fasting can reduce oxidative damage and inflammation in the body. This should have benefits against aging and development of numerous diseases.

5. Intermittent Fasting May be Beneficial For Heart Health

Heart disease is currently the world’s biggest killer (20).
Brunette Holding a Clock and Waiting to Eat
It is known that various health markers (so-called “risk factors”) are associated with either an increased or decreased risk of heart disease.
Intermittent fasting has been shown to improve numerous different risk factors, including blood pressure, total and LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers and blood sugar levels (12212223)
However, a lot of this is based on animal studies. The effects on heart health need to be studied a lot further in humans before recommendations can be made.
Bottom Line: Studies show that intermittent fasting can improve numerous risk factors for heart disease such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglycerides and inflammatory markers.

6. Intermittent Fasting Induces Various Cellular Repair Processes

When we fast, the cells in the body initiate a cellular “waste removal” process calledautophagy (724).
This involves the cells breaking down and metabolizing broken and dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells over time.
Increased autophagy may provide protection against several diseases, including cancer and Alzheimer’s disease (2526).
Bottom Line: Fasting triggers a metabolic pathway called autophagy, which removes waste material from cells.

7. Intermittent Fasting May Help Prevent Cancer

Happy Doctor
Cancer is a terrible disease, characterized by uncontrolled growth of cells.
Fasting has been shown to have several beneficial effects on metabolism that may lead to reduced risk of cancer.
Although human studies are needed, promising evidencefrom animal studies indicates that intermittent fasting may help prevent cancer (27282930).
There is also some evidence on human cancer patients, showing that fasting reduced various side effects of chemotherapy (31).
Bottom Line: Intermittent fasting has been shown to help prevent cancer in animal studies. One paper in humans showed that it can reduce side effects caused by chemotherapy.

8. Intermittent Fasting is Good For Your Brain

What is good for the body is often good for the brain as well.
Intermittent fasting improves various metabolic features known to be important forbrain health.
Hungry Woman With Empty Plate
This includes reduced oxidative stress, reduced inflammation and a reduction in blood sugar levels and insulin resistance.
Several studies in rats have shown that intermittent fasting may increase the growth of new nerve cells, which should have benefits for brain function (3233).
It also increases levels of a brain hormone called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) (323435), a deficiency of which has been implicated in depression and various other brain problems (36).
Animal studies have also shown that intermittent fasting protects against brain damage due to strokes (37).
Bottom Line: Intermittent fasting may have important benefits for brain health. It may increase growth of new neurons and protect the brain from damage.

9. Intermittent Fasting May Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

Illuminated Human Brain
Alzheimer’s disease is the world’s most common neurodegenerative disease.
There is no cure available for Alzheimer’s, so preventing it from showing up in the first place is critical.
A study in rats shows that intermittent fasting may delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease or reduce its severity (38).
In a series of case reports, a lifestyle intervention that included daily short-term fasts was able to significantly improve Alzheimer’s symptoms in 9 out of 10 patients (39).
Animal studies also suggest that fasting may protect against other neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease (4041).
However, more research in humans is needed.
Bottom Line: Studies in animals suggest that intermittent fasting may be protective against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.

10. Intermittent Fasting May Extend Your Lifespan, Helping You Live Longer

One of the most exciting applications of intermittent fasting may be its ability to extend lifespan.
Studies in rats have shown that intermittent fasting extends lifespan in a similar way as continuous calorie restriction (4243).
In some of these studies, the effects were quite dramatic. In one of them, rats that fasted every other day lived 83% longer than rats who weren’t fasted (44).
Although this is far from being proven in humans, intermittent fasting has become very popular among the anti-aging crowd.
Given the known benefits for metabolism and all sorts of health markers, it makes sense that intermittent fasting could help you live a longer and healthier life.
You can find more info about intermittent fasting on this page: Intermittent Fasting 101 – The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Fidya Qadha Kaffara

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful 

A few rulings regarding Qadha’ (make up) fasts and offering Fidyah and Kaffarah (expiation for missing fasts)


Qadha’ Fasting: 
If one has missed any days of fasting during the month of Ramadhan in the previous year, then it is a religious recommendation to make up those fasts before the next Ramadhan 
If one has days of fast to make up, but intentionally does not make them up before the next Ramadhan, the person is still held religiously liable (to make the days up at a later time) and must offer a Fidyah for each day missed by feeding one poor person (as defined by the religious criteria). 
Those Unable to Fast: 
Those incapable of fasting, such as the elderly, those who cannot fast due to illness, and those who go through desperate situations temporarily preventing them from fasting, such as some pregnant women and some nursing mothers, must offer the Fidyah. 
The Fidyah is feeding one poor person for each day in which fasting was missed during the month of Ramadhan.
Fidyah and the Kaffarah: 
Fidyah: A compensation paid for not being able to fast. It is to feed one poor person for each day. The one who is incapable of fasting, thus, offers thirty meals to the poor. 

The Kaffarah for delaying the Qadha’ fasting: To feed a poor person for each day, in addition to being obligated to perform the Qadha’ fast.
The Kaffarah for intentionally breaking one’s fast during the month of Ramadhan: Either fasting for sixty days, or feeding sixty poor persons, for each day missed. 

It is permissible to offer the entire Fidyah to a single poor person, but the Kaffarah of feeding sixty persons must be offered to distinct individuals. 
When it comes to the Fidyah and the Kaffarah, nothing but “feeding” suffices. As for how much food, it is the average amount which we usually feed ourselves and our families. According to Islamic law, it must be the equivalent of at least 750 grams (1.65 lbs.) of wheat, rice or dates. 
It is permissible to pay money with the condition of delegating to the appropriate entity, or trustworthy person, or the poor person him/herself, so long as one feels assured that the food will be bought and offered. It is not permissible to purchase anything but food with the money. 
Contrary to common belief, in the United States there are many poor and needy persons who are in need of food. For this reason, our organization, in collaboration with other charitable entities and relevant organizations in the United States, takes on the responsibility of feeding the poor and needy. You can send the required Fidyah and Kaffarah by clicking on the following links: 


May God accept your fasts and good deeds, and may every year grant you the best of health and spirits.